Origin of Cultural Studies

Origin of Cultural Studies

Cultural studies is a field of theoretically, politically, and empirically engaged cultural analysis that concentrates upon the political dynamics of contemporary culture, its historical foundations, defining traits, conflicts, and contingencies. Cultural Studies Cultural studies researchers generally investigate how cultural practices relate to wider systems of power associated with or operating through social phenomena, such as ideology, class structures, national formations, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and generation. Cultural studies views cultures not as fixed, bounded, stable, and discrete entities, but rather as constantly interacting and changing sets of practices and processes.

The field of cultural studies encompasses a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives and practices. Although distinct from the discipline of cultural anthropology and the interdisciplinary field of ethnic studies, cultural studies draws upon and has contributed to each of these fields.

Cultural studies was initially developed by British Marxist academics in the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and has been subsequently taken up and transformed by scholars from many different disciplines around the world. Cultural studies is avowedly and even radically interdisciplinary and can sometimes be seen as antidisciplinary. A key concern for cultural studies practitioners is the examination of the forces within and through which socially organized people conduct and participate in the construction of their everyday lives.

Cultural studies combines a variety of politically engaged critical approaches drawn including semiotics, Marxism, feminist theory, ethnography, post-structuralism, postcolonialism, social theory, political theory, history, philosophy, literary theory, media theory, film/video studies, communication studies, political economy, translation studies, museum studies and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in various societies and historical periods. Cultural Studies Cultural studies seeks to understand how meaning is generated, disseminated, contested, bound up with systems of power and control, and produced from the social, political and economic spheres within a particular social formation or conjuncture. Important theories of cultural hegemony and agency have both influenced and been developed by the cultural studies movement, as have many recent major communication theories and agendas, such as those that attempt to explain and analyze the cultural forces related and processes of globalization.

Origin of Cultural Studies

During the rise of neo-liberalism in Britain and the US, cultural studies both became a global movement, and attracted the attention of many conservative opponents both within and beyond universities for a variety of reasons. What is Cultural Studies Cultural Studies Some left-wing critics associated particularly with Marxist forms of political economy also attacked cultural studies for allegedly overstating the importance of cultural phenomena. While cultural studies continues to have its detractors, the field has become a kind of a worldwide movement of students and practitioners with a raft of scholarly associations and programs, annual international conferences and publications. Distinct approaches to cultural studies have emerged in different national and regional contexts.

In the US, prior to the emergence of British Cultural Studies, several versions of cultural analysis had emerged largely from pragmatic and liberal-pluralist philosophical traditions. What is Cultural Studies However, in the late 1970s and 1980s, when British Cultural Studies began to spread internationally, and to engage with feminism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, and race, critical cultural studies (i.e., Marxist, feminist, poststructuralist, etc.) expanded tremendously in American universities in fields such as communication studies, education, sociology, and literature. What is Cultural Studies Cultural Studies, the flagship journal of the field, has been based in the US since its founding editor, John Fiske, brought it there from Australia in 1987. A thriving cultural studies scene has existed in Australia since the late 1970s, when several key CS practitioners emigrated there from the UK, taking British Cultural Studies with them, after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the UK in 1979. A school of cultural studies known as cultural policy studies is one of the distinctive Australian contributions to the field, though it is not the only one. Australia also gave birth to the world's first professional cultural studies association (now known as the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia) in 1990.

Cultural studies journals based in Australia include International Journal of Cultural Studies, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, and Cultural Studies Review. In Canada, cultural studies has sometimes focused on issues of technology and society, continuing the emphasis in the work of Marshall McLuhan, Harold Innis, and others. Cultural studies journals based in Canada include Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. In Africa, human rights and Third-World issues are among the central topics treated. There is a thriving cultural and media studies scholarship in Southern Africa, with its locus in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Cultural Studies journals based in Africa include the Journal of African Cultural Studies. In Latin America, cultural studies have drawn on thinkers such as José Martí, Ángel Rama, and other Latin-American figures, in addition to the Western theoretical sources associated with cultural studies in other parts of the world. Leading Latin American cultural studies scholars include Néstor García Canclini, Jésus Martín-Barbero, and Beatriz Sarlo. Among the key issues addressed by Latin American cultural studies scholars are decoloniality, urban cultures, and postdevelopment theory. Latin American cultural studies journals include the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. Even though cultural studies developed much more rapidly in the UK than in continental Europe, there is significant cultural studies presence in countries such as France, Spain, and Portugal.

Why did it seem necessary to give an academic label to the kind of research Williams, Hoggart and then Hall were engaged in? Each of these thinkers knew there was a minor tradition of studying culture ‘from below’; that is, the cultural practices and rituals of everyday life associated with ordinary people, or with groups and populations who did not belong to the powerful social classes or to the political elites. All three figures were trained in English Literature. Williams looked to writers like D H Lawrence and Thomas Hardy, whose work drew on experiences of poor mining or farming communities as they were undergoing transitions and displacement brought about by urban modernity. Richard Hoggart grew up in a working-class neighbourhood in Leeds and went on to become a ‘scholarship boy’. He produced what quickly came to be seen as a classic work, puzzlingly titled The Uses of Literacy, which was based partly on his personal memory of the habits, rituals and everyday lives of the people who lived in his own neighbourhood from the interwar period through to the post-war years. He documented how women cleaned their front doorsteps and gossiped over the fences as they hung out the washing. The popular women’s magazines they read, often with lurid covers, brought some glamour and excitement amidst the hardship. These lives did not appear in official histories and Hoggart aimed to show their richness and solidarity. Stuart Hall came from Jamaica in 1951 as a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford. His intellectual formation took place in the heightened atmosphere of the CND movement, the ‘New Left’ and the anti-colonialist struggles of the 1960s.

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